Make it while you fake it

Hands up who feels like an impostor?


(Man, it’s hard to type one-handed.)

It’s estimated that 80% of people experience impostor syndrome at some point in their lives.  For the 20% who have no idea what we’re talking about, impostor syndrome is defined as a fear of failure.  Overwhelming evidence may show that you have excellent performance and obvious success, but you put that down to luck rather than skill.  You believe that any success has been attained by circumstance: that you were simply in the right place at the right time, or just got lucky.  And you’re constantly expecting to be found out.

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For this reason, “impostors” rarely admit that’s how they feel.  It would be exposing yourself in the most excruciating manner, like suddenly standing up on a packed train carriage and shouting “Hey everyone! I just farted!“.  Once the “secret” is out, you believe that people will be able to see straight through you, no one will trust your judgement again, everything you have will be snatched away from you, and the seat next to you on the train will be eternally empty.

A couple of years ago, my husband came home from work and told me about the introductory meeting he’d had with the high-profile, super-confident CEO of the large company he was working for at the time.  At one point during the meeting, my husband awkwardly said “I don’t know how I got here – I just keep expecting to be found out”, and then panicked as he noticed a brief flicker of shock flash across the eyes of the CEO.  As they were leaving the meeting later, the CEO whispered to him, “That thing you said about being found out… I feel like that all the time”.

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It’s something I’ve felt in various jobs over the years, but I’m hearing it from a huge number of people since I’ve joined the quilting fraternity.  So many of our wonderful peers feel like they don’t belong and simply don’t measure up to all those amazing makers out there.  Our work isn’t as precise, innovative, fun, beautiful or prolific as all those other people’s. We simply don’t cut the mustard.

As “impostors” are likely to judge themselves unfairly in a social context, Instagram, with its highly polished, carefully choreographed, filtered, brightened, colourful versions of makers and their makes, drains the powers of “impostors” like a truckload of kryptonite.  On the flip side, when “impostors” post something on IG, no matter how many likes they receive or the positive comments they get, they are resistant to the praise and good feedback as they don’t believe it’s true, or that they haven’t properly earned it for some reason.

If this description makes you feel like I’ve somehow been eavesdropping on the running commentary in your head, watch this excellent video by The School Of Life.  Then take some time to practice the tools it provides to recalibrate your thinking.  But most importantly, please believe me when I say YOU BELONG HERE.  Because if you don’t, neither do I, or 80% of the other amazing makers out there.

Alison x
(aka The Baroness)



5 thoughts on “Make it while you fake it

  1. Alisa@ A Stitch in Between says:

    This rings so true to me! I constantly question myself and feel like at any moment or with any new project people would say “ew, what’s this?” and will see me for a fraud that I am.. I am working on it though, working on knowing that I do belong and that I am not a fraud and I don’t need to prove myself to anybody else.. Thanks for this blog post Alison

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wobby's World says:

    I don’t think my quilts are unique or special but I don’t suffer from imposter syndrome in a quilty context (have done at work and uni, though, so I know the feeling). I’ve been making quilts for three years so I figure I’m still an apprentice — so many things I still need to try, want to learn, and many more hours to clock up till I hit 10,000. I put photos on Instagram because I enjoy seeing what others make so I figure I should add my stuff to the pool but I’m not looking for validation. I trust my own opinion of my quilts — some are good, some are mediocre and some have been a lesson in what not to do!

    I suffer from a bit of social anxiety, caring far too much about what other people think of my appearance, my job, my intelligence, my conversation skills, my parenting skills. Quilting is MINE — possibly the one thing in my life where I don’t care what other people think, whether they’re my friends and family who don’t sew or other quilters. Besides, there are soooooooo many quilters on Instagram and such varied styles and skill levels, I figure everyone’s just doing their own thing and making quilts to be loved and used rather than producing competitive photos of sewing projects.

    I read something on Instagram recently, a conversation urging people to be more creative, more original. It bugged me. People post photos of their quilts on Instagram for all kinds of reasons but I reckon for most, it’s because they love *making* quilts and they want to share this with kindred spirits. This idea that we all need to be producing innovative, original ‘art’ with our quilting is just bizarre and unkind, encouraging a hierarchical, competitive attitude where almost everyone comes off feeling inadequate. For most of us, sewing is a fun distraction from everyday routine life. Making people feel like they shouldn’t share the hobby they love via Instagram unless they’re avant garde artists is just bloody absurd. Instagram is not the Royal Academy, it’s a social media free-for-all where everyone gets a voice. Share what you love to make, peeps, for it’s the love of making not the result that counts!

    (Sorry for blathering, feel free to delete. Now back to reality — getting the kids to bed before I sew on some binding during Q&A.)


    • modernmakersretreat says:

      Definitely not deleting! This is great “blathering”! And a great attitude Wobby!

      That thing you read on IG urging people to be more original with their quilts – I didn’t read it, but I can see how it would have bugged you. Now forgive me here as I’m a champion at playing devil’s advocate…. I think the person who wrote it would be sorry it made you (and possibly others) feel that way. I imagine that they were simply trying to encourage people to step outside of their comfort zone and try something new, but this just goes to show how sometimes innocent comments on social media can sting people in a way you really didn’t expect. But I totally agree: IG is a place where we should feel free to share our triumphs, trials and true selves. As I say often to my fellow makers…. “it’s not a competition!”

      Alison x


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